Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your appointment. The job looks good on you.
I would like to thank the voters of Battlefords—Lloydminster for their support. I speak today on their behalf in support of the motion to condemn the government for its empty promises.
My riding is a large rural riding with a very active and diverse agricultural sector and a thriving resource industry. I would like to say that my constituents were very disappointed when there was no mention of their issues and concerns in last week's throne speech.
As a matter of fact, we are obviously not alone if we judge by the comments that came out of British Columbia last week. To my knowledge no one in Saskatchewan is entertaining the notion of separation, but we can certainly sympathize with the frustration that is contained in that expression. Even if much of that frustration is based on perception rather than reality, it still grows as Canadians beyond this central region see their concerns ignored and in some cases brushed off as insignificant.
On the prairies today grain piles up in the elevators, trains sit idle on their sidings and government monopolies continue to tell farmers what to do with the products of their labour.
Back in Ottawa the government announces new spending initiatives to satisfy a few narrow interests as it claims a balanced budget will soon arrive and perhaps then it will take a look at letting Canadians keep more of their own money.
Has the government ever really asked what is the number one concern of all Canadians? If it did, the answer from the left and from the right of the political spectrum would be jobs, long term sustainable jobs.
When an individual has a secure job, all the other facets of their life fall into place. They can make plans, develop skills, raise families and put their wages into the marketplace to the benefit of their fellow citizens. When people feel secure they can more easily turn their attention to the wider concerns of a regional or national scale.
Reformers believe that Canadians are generous and compassionate and given the chance will make decisions with their money that will benefit their fellow citizens everywhere.
We believe that if governments create the conditions that offer opportunity and security in the economy, then prosperity will alleviate many of the social concerns we are struggling to deal with here in this place.
For example, if the government would create the conditions that encourage business people to hire workers, then the benefits to everyone would be obvious. If someone is lifted from a social program, becomes a taxpayer and is given the opportunity to make decisions, it will help their fellow Canadian.
That is where we run into trouble. Some people still believe in the grand schemes that call for massive amounts of tax dollars and assume that a handful of bureaucrats making decisions in central offices are somehow superior to the choices made by ordinary Canadians.
Reformers and people with different perspectives from many countries have shown over and over that this philosophy is both wasteful and ineffective.
Taxpayers do not need more grand schemes. We need to let Canadians, including Canadians who choose to invest in their future, create businesses and hire their neighbours, to make their own choices.
I am not going to stand here and say that average Canadians have all the answers. When we consider the risks involved, the headaches and the aggravation of owning a small or medium size business, we have to wonder if wise choices are being made out there. There was a joke going around a few years ago which asked: How do you make $1 million in Canadian business? First you start with $2 million.
When we consider the number of obstacles which stand in the way of a Canadian entrepreneur, the regulations and red tape, taxes, fees, licences at three levels of government, including all the agencies and commissions, the regulations and fees of the banks, the suppliers and the competition, it obviously takes a special breed of people to want to have their own business.
To be fair, we are not unique in the world for this. There are just as many regulations meant to protect as there are to interfere. However, when we consider that there are nearly one million businesses with paid employees in Canada, of which 97 percent have less than 50 workers, and 1.1 million Canadians who describe themselves as self-employed, surely there are a few basic things that can be done to encourage those people.
Consider that 75 percent of all businesses in Canada have less than five employees. By convincing even half of these employers to hire one more worker on average, we would see 360,000 jobs created in a relatively short period of time.
The question becomes: What would it take to convince someone to hire that new worker? Quite simply, companies will hire only if it is in the interest of their profitability to do so. It is naive to think otherwise.
We often hear in the House that the measure of a country is how it treats its most vulnerable citizens. Where the debate goes off track is when some of our colleagues assume that the only measure of how we treat these citizens is how much money the government spends to deal with them. We forget entirely that citizens can help each other and that the choices of our fellow citizens must be part of this measurement.
Governments can better increase the profitability of businesses by reducing their costs, rather than by subsidizing certain activities. Labour is one of these costs and government can have a negative influence on this by, for example, keeping employment insurance rates higher than are necessary or by jacking up premiums on pension plans to compensate for 30 years of mismanagement.
Taxes of all kinds can also have a negative impact. Nobody has yet found a way to run a country without them, but it is the rates established in Canada that need serious adjustment. Taxing capital gains at the same rate as ordinary income ignores the element of risk that an investor or entrepreneur brings to business, without which our economy would be stagnant. Taxes drive up the cost of nearly everything, and by so doing suppress purchasing and pass the costs on to the people least able to afford them.
We can see that potential entrepreneurs in this country are hit with a triple whammy. Government raises the cost of supplies and products without consultation, thereby affecting sales. If they succeed they are then hit with premiums, levies and taxes on the employees they try to hire to help them produce more.
Finally, if the struggling businesses manage to overcome all of this and show a profit, the government again comes looking for a share. There is of course the small business tax deduction, but it has not been adjusted since it was introduced in 1982.
Governments have compensated for inflation by increasing their tax take, but have done nothing to protect the people who generate those taxes. I do not wish to be dramatic. Clearly Canadians are creating businesses and, though not very often, are even pocketing some money and prospering.
The question that we have before us is this. How can we make more people more prosperous? The Reform Party discussion paper Beyond a Balanced Budget provides a great deal of statistical information and arguments on why we must address the issues of tax burdens and entrepreneurship in Canada. We invite informed discussion from all Canadians on the future direction of this country.
We stand at a threshold, as we did in 1970 when the government last had a surplus budget. What we decide to do in this House will not only affect ourselves and our children, it will affect Canadians for generations to come. I trust we can be much more prudent and thoughtful than our predecessors.